The Most Mobile-Heavy Digital Ad Platform May Not Be Social Media

February 1, 2018

Social media ad spending is well-known to skew heavily towards mobile devices, perhaps best evidenced by its 89% share of Facebook ad spending [pdf] in Q4 2017. But as a new quarterly report [download page] from Merkle indicates, mobile’s share of ad spending is actually highest in a different advertising platform.

That platform is audio, in which 87% of ad spending among Merkle’s clients was directed towards mobile devices in Q4.

Recent data from the IAB and PwC confirms the mobile-first approach to digital audio advertising. In that report, mobile was found to represent 74% of the $603 million spent on US digital audio advertising during the first half of 2017. (Audio ads accounted for a fractional 1.5% of total digital ad spending during the period.)

Research has found that smartphones are the favored digital devices for listening to music, though not with the dominance that one might expect, with many also listening via PCs and laptops.

Meanwhile, Merkle’s data indicates that clients allocated more than three-quarters (78%) of their paid social budgets to mobile devices. Mobile’s share of social ad spend was generally on par with its share of social media site visits (75%). (The IAB and PwC report does not break down social media ad spending by device.)

Next up, mobile accounted for about two-thirds (68%) of video ad spend for Merkle’s clients in Q4 2017. For its part, the IAB and PwC report mentioned above found that digital video ad spend on mobile devices rose to equal that on desktops for the first time during H1 2017.

Curiously, mobile devices represented less than half of spending (46%) on traditional display advertising, despite other indications that banner ads make up a much larger portion of ad spending on mobiles than on desktops.

But the least mobile-heavy format for Merkle’s clients during Q4 was paid search, where these devices captured just 37% of spend, despite combining for 59% of paid search clicks. The smaller spend share going to mobile devices in paid search is likely due to greater conversions on desktops: the median client site during Q4 received 40% less online revenue per click for tablet traffic than for desktop traffic, with the gap even wider for smartphones (67% less).

Merkle does caution that “phone traffic… disproportionately benefits from considering offline and cross-device conversions.”

The full report can be downloaded here.


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